Dreamy Baltimore pop band Lower Dens don’t care whether you like them or not. There’s hardly a hook to be had, a conventionally structured track to be found, or anything much to grab onto at all on their languorous, minimalist second disc, “Nootropics” (pronounced “No-eh-tropics”).
“Nootropics” is loosely intended as a companion piece to Lower Dens’ debut, “Twin-Hand Movement,” with an emphasis on the word “loosely.” “Movement” concerned itself with connection and belonging; its follow-up is all about future shock, about the fraught connections between man and machine.
At least, that’s what it seems like. “Nootropics” is distant and vague, a warm blanket of fog and fuzz and celestial synths from which songs occasionally emerge. Its finest track might be the instrumental “Lion in Winter, Pt. 1,” a triumphant noise wall laying waste to the idea that “Nootropics” has to be about anything at all.
Frontwoman Jana Hunter is a recovering freak folkie with a masculine voice buried so low in the mix that it takes a while to even notice she’s there. Her murmur propels the watery “Propagation,” a track indebted, but not overly so, to fellow shadow pop enthusiasts Twin Sister, and she brings some much needed breakdown-and-release tension to “Lamb,” one of a few outright stunners on an album of growers.